The Giving of Gifts
Just as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge,
in complete earnestness and in your love for us—see that you
also excel in this grace of giving.
—2 Corinthians 8:7
Some of the most troublesome aspects of gift giving are the materialism and commercialism that are so inextricably woven into the fabric of Christmas and the attendant pressure of giving gifts to others out of a sense of obligation, rather than freely out of love.
While we can all identify with such pressure, it is important to recognize that perversions do not in and of themselves invalidate the practice of giving gifts. As followers of the One who gave Himself for us, we ought to exult in the very notion of giving to others. As such, having the unique opportunity of giving to ministries that propagate the gospel, of giving to the downtrodden and oft-forgotten, and of giving to family members and friends should overwhelm us with joy—especially when there is no expectation of giving to get. Jesus’ teachings in this regard are instructive.
While dining at the house of a prominent Pharisee, Jesus admonished the guests (and presumably the host as well), saying:
When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous (Luke 14:12–14).
Far from suggesting that it is inappropriate to show kindness and generosity to family and friends, Jesus highlights the reality of genuine kindness and generosity motivated by love for others as opposed to the expectation of favor in return.
This Christmas season may we give with a grateful heart, as we too have been given. Far from a burden, giving can become an extraordinary blessing. As such, whether you are inscribing a Christmas card or purchasing a gift for a loved one, do it all with a grateful heart and a song upon your lips. And “when you give to the needy,” remember the words of the greatest Gift of all: “Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:3–4).